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How TikTok’s US security chief finds a way to disconnect from social media

It’s not easy for Eric Han to get away from work or social media. Han, 35, is the US chief security officer at TikTok, which has seen its user base soar during the shutdowns. Since 2020, the social media app has also come under increasing scrutiny over how it handles the spread of misinformation, misinformation and graphic content in a global news cycle. volatile.

Han spent 14 years in the trust and safety space and started his career as a content moderator, which is to say the job is always busy. But given his intense workload, Han says it’s essential for him to decompress by taking meaningful breaks and molding him as the leader of his team.

“To be completely honest, for people of trust and safety, especially for me, it’s kind of a nudge to get us to take the PTO,” Han told CNBC Make It. “The field attracts a lot of selfless people who are mission-driven and have a mindset of wanting to keep the platform safe.”

But that kind of culture can cause people to burn out, even at a company like TikTok that gives American employees 17 vacation days a year. “We’ll tell people who haven’t taken a vacation in a while, ‘You have to slow down to speed up,'” Han says.

Here, Han shares how even a trust and safety expert at a social media company can disconnect from work.

How he replaced his travel hobby during the Covid lockdowns: I’m the kind of person who plans trips and has enough Google Docs, Lonely Planet, and TripAdvisor tabs open to crash a computer. But during the pandemic, my wife, who works in medicine, and I have not been able to take our usual long trips to Southeast Asia or Europe. So we built a garden.

I told my team, “I’m going to take two days off to just plant seedlings.” I never thought I’d be the kind of person who has a favorite tomato – which is black krim, by the way – but two and a half years later, that’s where my element of peace is. There is an advantage to being able to have a zen period and to go out throughout the day. I can pepper it throughout the day or take a day or two off to just sit in my garden.

The importance of redefining what free time looks like: Given the work we’re doing on trust and safety, and given the busy news cycle lately, we recognize that our team needs more time to decompress. From a leadership perspective, we need to make sure that we not only have the right intention in place, but also make sure that at the institutional level we have built-in resources, like mental health days and support services emotional.

Tips for quitting social media on vacation: I used an app called Freedom which limits my access to certain sites and apps. Other times I just delete social media like Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok from my phone. The challenge is always to stick to it.

I don’t bring my phone to some places. Sometimes I leave him locked up in the hotel. My parents grew up in a village in Malaysia, so when I visit, I can be intentional and think, “I’m going to a part of the country that doesn’t have good reception anyway. I can turn off my Twitter brain or not watch Instagram.

I also do a lot of photography when I travel, so I can focus on that.

Why he and his team constantly encourage breaks: We talk about free time all the time. It’s like saying, “Hey, how are you? What did you do this weekend? And, oh, do you need more time off?”

We are all very expressive people and we take care of each other. A lot of that is baked into our culture, in terms of making sure we check in and encourage each other to do fun things.

What he would say to himself, 25, about time off: Be more adventurous.

Every five to seven years, I would go on a trip with my parents to where they grew up in Southeast Asia. In my twenties, I would much rather hang out with my friends in Vegas. I probably had a childish attitude of, “Am I going to a village with no reception?” Now I look forward to doing these things.

It took me a while to think about what a privilege it was to connect not only with my family, but also with my ancestors and where I came from. These are some of the most transformative moments I have had as an individual learning where I come from.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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